Walleye are strong fighters and aggressive predators. They’re always looking to find an easy meal, except spring spawning rituals. Walleye are a joy to catch and, like Pringles, you’ll soon discover that one is not enough.
We have written before about walleye, explaining the basics of their behavior. We have a specific guide for fall, which is prime season. This will help you to tilt the odds in your favor as the water cools.
Some walleye anglers have been left wanting more from us. They want to know the best walleye lures and baits for open-water fishing, where to fish them, and how they are deadly.
Are you ready for the answers? Continue reading
Walleye Jigs and Lures – How to Fish them
Big swimbaits are great for jigging
Walleye love the sound of a paddle-tailed swimming bait. If you know how to use these lures you can get strike after strike.
The Gene Larew Sweet Swimmer, 3 1/2 inches in length, is an excellent choice. They are extra-soft and produce incredible tail action. This creates the vibration you need to attract walleye.
Select natural colors that are clear in water, as always. The best choices are “Threadfin Sad,” “Gray Ghost,” or “Glass Minnow”. In stained water, remember the hot pinks as well as whites.
These swimbaits are rigged on either a 1/4-ounce or 1/8-ounce jighead. The Temora ball-jig heads are available in a variety of colors and hold soft plastics well. They won’t break your bank.
How to catch them:
Walleye anglers often make the same mistake when using soft plastics – a bad habit that is ingrained in them by live bait: they fish too slow and forget that the lure requires you to work.
Paddle-tails can be mastered easily, which is the good news.
The easiest way to use them is to treat them as crankbait. Cast your rod to the edge of a weed bed and then crank slowly. This will get your tail wagging and draw in hunting wallies.
I like to also pop my paddle-tails and grab them in irregular cadences, letting them sink and fall every few feet. This simulates an injured baitfish and will attract attention if you have ever tried it in clear water.
Swimming baits are great for fishing the bottom, sides, and edges of submerged hoops, as well as drop-offs that walleye can use to school bait during hunting. To match the walleye’s appetites and conditions, I keep several colors in my bag.
You can stand off and cast a country kilometer with lipless crankbaits, which provide excellent stealth in shallow waters. You can also quickly work large areas and identify productive water quickly.
The Strike King Red Eye Shad is a great option. These are thrown in clear water as “Shad” or “Chrome Sexy Shad”.
The Strike King Red Eye Shad, one of my favorite lipless crankbaits can produce strikes on cold autumn mornings.
These lures come in three sizes and a wide range of colors. They wiggle tight and produce the right vibration to encourage strikes. It is equipped with an internal rattle that rings the bell for hungry walleyes.
The Rat-L-Trap is another lipless crankbait, which can only be described as “legendary”. These wriggling lures come packed with BBs and are available in almost any color or pattern you can think of. These bad boys can be tight-swimming if jerked free of weeds. They are especially deadly for walleyes in colors such as “Chrome Black Black”.
How to catch them:
I love to search for high-contrast areas walleyes love. These include a rocky hump along a sandy or muddy bottom, a shallow strewn by boulders near a steep, sandy drop-off, or a flat with lots of live plants.
A steady retrieve won’t reveal the magic of a lipless crankbait.
These lures should be run just above the surface of weed beds and rocks. If you feel the treble hooks biting vegetation or come across the edge of a boulder’s rough edge, jerk the lure and let it drop for a second before retrieving again.
This is also known as a “stick rip-fall-run” cadence or a “yo-yo.”
These lures can also be removed from the bottom by ripping them up and giving them a few cranks before letting them drop again. This works especially well on shallow flats and muddy bottoms as well as along transition zones, such as drop-offs, points, and humps that are adjacent to deeper water.
It is important to capitalize on the unique shape and sinking proclivity of lipless crankbaits. Vertical movement is the key to effective lure design.
Pro tip: If your rear treble seems to be hanging in the weeds a lot, you can simply cut the single hook using a pair of scissors. You won’t have to worry about hookups, but it will be easier to trim the curve.
Crankbaits are essential for walleye fishing, whether you’re trolling slowly in summer or drifting by shallow and working weed beds from a distance. You can cover a lot of water quickly and cast far away. They also produce vibrations and actions that walleyes love.
You could not ask for more.
The Rapala Shad Rap and its cousin the Shallow Shad Rap are two of my favorite raps. You don’t have to look very hard if you can’t find wallies that will eat these guys alive.
How to catch them:
Trolling very slowly (less than 2mph) is a good way to go. Let the lures do their magic and let your lips and actions speak for themselves. You should look out for submerged humps and steep drop-offs. These are all likely to attract feeding walleye.
These fish are great for creating dramatic strikes. I like to use them a little like jerk baits, ripping and stopping then cranking again. These are also great for chopping down the sides of weedbeds and covering.
They can also be fatal over rocks in shallow waters:
Here are a few things to remember about walleye behavior
Walleye sport incredible low-light vision.
Walleye, like pike and other visual hunters, are also visual hunters. Walleye swim to find prey, rather than stumbling like pike.
Walleyes use low visibility to their advantage. They cruise for food when their prey isn’t able to see. This includes night, dawn, dusk, and night. However, visibility can be reduced by any conditions. When deciding when to feed, you should consider the “walleye chop” and murky or stained waters.
They are sensitive to their lateral lines.
Walleyes are as good at seeing, but they also depend on their lateral line for prey detection.
Anglers can use lures and live bait to create exciting vibrations beyond their visual range.
Blades, rattles, and spinners are all great bets. Crankbaits that wiggle tight are also good options.
They are drawn to contrasts.
We’ve already discussed that walleyes seek out contrasts. They will hunt rocks on a sandy or muddy bottom. You’ll often find unusual structures if you look for them.
Spring and fall are shallow, summer is deep.
Cool water is the best place to look for walleye. They will follow baitfish, especially in fall, into shallow flats or weed beds.
In the summer heat, however, they will retreat to deeper and cooler waters.
Your techniques should adapt to the changing seasons.
Walleye’s Best Live Bait: This is the best choice
Walleye anglers love live bait. It’s a great choice.
Minnows?Leeches?WormsThey all have their place in your walleye arsenal. But, to make the most of them, there are a few things you can do.
Greg Bohn warns that the best rig won’t be successful if it doesn’t make your nightcrawler, minnow, or leech look appealing. It will not entice a bite. It is important to properly hook the bait and take care of it. You’ll spend your entire day looking at bobbers if the bait isn’t in good condition.
Let’s begin with the slip float, which is the most attractive way to bait walleyes with live bait.
Slip floats are a great way to rig live bait, as crappie anglers can attest. The Thill brand is a favorite of mine. They are easy to use and high-quality.
Slip floats offer a better casting experience than standard bobbers. They allow you to control the depth of your terminal tackle while still being able to cast effectively.
These videos will show you how to set up and operate a slip float.
You can run your live bait on a hook, jig, or another device. It is important to match your hook to your bait size. I keep several sizes of hooks on hand. While I do size up to my minnows in the fall, I indeed prefer to keep a variety of hook sizes on hand. Match the hook with the bait.
For instance, when I run leeches on my jig heads, I want to be as small as possible and to tie the knot at just the right point of the eye.
Remember to place the knot correctly if you want to tie a jig!
This is not what you want. Pay attention to where the knot leaves your eye.
Instead, place your knot just above the eye. This will allow you to tilt your jig forward, lift the tail and present your leech to its greatest advantage.
This is what you need.
Minnows can be a good choice for cooler water and are very effective when walleyes are looking for shallower areas to catch their fish. I like to attach mine to slip floats and hang them on weddings, either at their tops or to the sides.
This allows minnows to move around the float in a way that attracts walleye for a bite. The goal of hooking a minnow to allow it to swim longer, and work harder, is the essence.
I would skip the Aberdeen wire hooks for walleye because they aren’t strong enough.
Out of all the options, I prefer a #2 Gamakatsu circular hook. These guys are sharp, powerful, and deadly.
This video will show you how to rig a minnow. If one method fails, you can always try another.